Sunday, December 13, 2015

Tinker (Douggy, 6)

"You're on thin ice. Sleeping through a class is one things, but you're supposed to be teaching it! I don't know what kind of stunt you think you're trying to pull, but if you think you're going to pull a fast one on us, boy, you're going to sink and drown. One more chance, and then the fog will be so thick, it'll make molasses feel like water. Do you understand, little man?"

"I understand that you don't see what I'm doing."

"Then explain it to me."

"Come to my class. It's not something I can explain, you'll just have to see it for yourself."

"No, that's not how it works around here. You have a curriculum, you have material that you have to convey to your students within the class period. And if you're sound asleep at the head of the class, you're not doing any of that."

Douggy was up off his cot and leaning against the bars faster than Silas thought the old man could move, and the Sec Off took a quick step back and dropped his hand to the taser on his belt.

"You don't get it, do you. Have you ever taken a philosophy class in your life? I don't think so. You were probably taught by the system like everybody else in this damned facility, so you don't know what it's like having a real teacher who knows how to get the class to think for themselves. No, I don't want to be teaching; no, I don't want to have a class or students; no, I don't want to be stuck in this goddamn cell; but I'll be lying if I say that I'm not interested in making the best of what I've got.

"Have you ever taken an advanced math course? Trig? Calculus?"

Silas shook his head.

"How about Geometry?"

Silas nodded.

"How did they teach you geometery? Did they force feed you a bunch of equations and tell you how things were going to be, and just make you memorize them?"

"No. They made us reinvent the system. Derive equations from personal observations of the world around us."

"That's how it's supposed to be done. Because when you figure it out for yourself, you remember better, and if you ever forget a formula, you know how to figure it out again." Douggy let go of his white-knuckled grasp of the bars and shuffled back over to his cot, moving more like a man his age should. "It's the same with trig and calculus. The best way of teaching it is to get the students to figure it out on their own.

"Philosophy is harder, because it's not something you can just observe by wrapping your hands around it, measuring with pine needles or a ruler. It takes a special skill called metacognition, and not everybody can do it. I can do it. I might even be able to teach people how to do it, but you have to let me do it my way, and you have to be patient.

"I could just give them the keys to the world, but once the class is over, they won't remember it, not like you remember geometry. But I can trick them into figuring it out for themselves, and once they do that, they'll never forget."

"Fine. But you're still on a very short leash, and don't you forget it."


The second class reconvened, and this time, Douggy was provided with the most uncomfortable chair they could find. Still by the time his students started trickling in, his chin was resting on his chest, and his eyes were closed.

It was a strange looking class, students of all shapes and sizes assembled on rows of long wooden benches, hardly any wearing the same outfit, their garb more functional than stylish. They ranged from leather to plate mail to chainmaille, a couple of hooded, robed figures, and one man in noting but a belt and a loincloth, but even still, every last one was armed to the teeth. This world was a vicious one.

They took one look at their instructor, in much the same position he'd been in last time, and sat and waited. It took twenty minutes for boredom to kick in, and they started to chat quietly amongst themselves. Shortly thereafter, the door opened up again, and one more person walked in, muttering "Sorry I'm late," and crept back to the rear of the class.

Whispers grew as a couple of players recognized the latecomer, but he made no comment, leaning against the back wall, eyes missing nothing.

About ten minutes to the end of the class period, one of the louder students, at the urging of his friends, stood, walked to the front, and gestured to everybody to quiet down.

"Why are we here? To chat among ourselves while waiting to learn something? I tell you, I'm tired of waiting."

"Good. I was getting tired of waiting myself."

The student felt a hand on his shoulder, and turned, finding Dr Fhurr standing behind him, wide awake. "Wh-what?"

"Tell me, why are you here?"

"I was hoping to learn philosophy."

"No, no." Douggy brushes his hands out. "Not, 'why are you in this class,' but," he looks deep into the fighter's eyes, "Why are you here?"

"I don't know."

"That's a good start." Douggy turns to the rest of the class. "Anybody else? Why are you here?"


"That was well done, doctor."

"Thank you, Silas. Will you be joining us for the next session?"

"We'll see. I do have one question."

"Just one?"

"Well, okay, two."

"Was I really asleep, and how long would I have let it go on for?"


"No, I wasn't asleep; but I would have let it go as long as it would have taken. You can lead a student to class, but you can't make him think."

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